International

“…defence expenditure has to be increased. There can be no ifs or buts about that. … Europe has been freeloading on the United States, as far as NATO is concerned, for long enough. Britain, coming out of the EU, has to demonstrate to the Americans that we are committed to NATO’s defence.

Lord Owen, speaking in the House of Lords Debate on UK Defence Forces, 23 November 2017.

Download the speech here: HLDefenceDebate23.11.17 

My Lords, the issue before us all is that defence expenditure has to be increased. There can be no ifs or buts about that. For the next five years, the National Security Council will have to find an increase from 2% to 2.5% as the bare minimum. That body is looking at cyber, development, defence and foreign policy. It is the right body to give a remit to this new review that it will be funded to this extent. Without that, frankly, it will not be serious.

Europe has been freeloading on the United States, as far as NATO is concerned, for long enough. Britain, coming out of the EU, has to demonstrate to the Americans that we are committed to NATO’s defence. Without that, we will not maintain the support of the American people for their commitment to NATO. Everything that we see indicates that that is vital. Why?

President Putin has admitted that he considered putting Russian nuclear forces on full alert at the time of maximum tension over Crimea, which shows how unwise it is to assume that Russian nuclear strategies are anywhere near the same as ours in NATO. It is also true that President Putin has threatened to base nuclear forces in Crimea and that he has deployed missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave in the Baltic Sea which neighbours Poland and Lithuania. I do not wish to exaggerate—Russian Federation military power is far less than that of the old USSR. The relevant concern we have is the growth in the belief among informed NATO military opinion that Russian conventional forces are now able to punch a hole in NATO’s conventional defences, particularly in the Baltic region. This is the rational case for increased NATO defence spending. Not to allow it is, in my view, to put NATO’s whole deterrent strategy at risk.

It is also vital that in this review we look at the role of the aircraft carrier. Aircraft carriers are huge and hugely expensive, so we have to find a way of making a contribution worldwide through a rapid reaction force committed not only to NATO but, more importantly, to the UN. It should operate worldwide from Oman, and be part of a global British strategy for the next decade that will be beneficial to us in achieving greater prosperity and a global profile. In that context, we must look at the amphibious forces. What is envisaged for the Royal Marines, and for the ships that are necessary, raises very serious questions. How many of us were pleased about the intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000? Without that amphibious capability, our capacity to intervene would have been negligible—in fact, the intervention would have been so dangerous that we could not have undertaken it.

There are big tasks ahead. We now have an integrated structure that looks at our overall international policy. If that means we have to take more from the overseas budget, I would, extremely reluctantly, accept it. There are ways of achieving it within the normal rules, provided that they are changed. For instance, the HMS “Ocean” mission to the British Virgin Islands during the emergency was not a defence expenditure and should be met out of the foreign aid budget. It is ridiculous to be told that OECD rules imply that we cannot use our foreign aid budget because this country was previously considered to be a medium-sized economy. A lot of those OECD rules are out of date and if they cannot be changed, we have to change them unilaterally. The foreign aid budget is potentially extremely important, but day after day we hear how it is grotesquely badly used. The British public will not go on accepting that. It may be that the House of Commons does not have the willpower to change the present resolution, but we in this House have a responsibility to remind Commons Members of their responsibility to the defence of Europe and not to allow this burden to be borne only by the American people.

Download the speech here: HLDefenceDebate23.11.17

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We are on the threshold of another war in the Middle East involving Lebanon and the surrounding countries. It is imperative that Russia and the US start a process to help stabilise the region

Lord Owen’s speech to the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, delivered Thursday 16 November 2017.

Download the full text hereLordOwenMoscowSpeech

In the speech, Lord Owen argues “We are on the threshold of another war in the Middle East involving Lebanon and the surrounding countries. It is imperative that Russia and the US start a process to help stabilise the region using the P5 +1 mechanism with others – a mechanism that has worked in the past over Iran.”

Lord Owen will say “Russia will, in my view, only play the constructive role that it could in its new position, with a military airfield close to Lebanon, if we in the other four nations in 5+1 – Germany, France, US and the UK – offer to enter into a constructive dialogue in the area, above all, which is of immediate concern for Russia, namely east Ukraine and Crimea. A readiness to establish formal 5+1 negotiations for the settlement of not only these boundary disputes but also involving those near Moldova, namely Transnistria. Also Georgia, Nagorno Karabakh and even perhaps Kosovo, could be a way of unblocking the present stand off in negotiating directly with Ukraine and sets the dialogue in terms of other boundary changes.”

“Patiently, persuasively and persistently in the P5+1 on Eastern Europe and on the Middle East, deals can be made that, balanced across these two separate regions, could help to rebuild the relationship between Russia and the US and involve Iran in the context of Russian help in stabilising the Middle East.”

“We need Presidents Putin and Trump to authorise this process and the sooner the better and start to develop a measure of regard for each other’s domestic arrangements. They will not repair all the strains and stresses quickly, but a civilized dialogue can and must be restored.”

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The International Community and Iran: “Putin… has more to gain for Russia from becoming an overall peace negotiator with the US and to help the Middle East as a region… 

Lord Owen speaking to a Conference on ‘The Iranian Challenge in Multiple Areas’, Tel Aviv University, 6 November 2017.

“There will be no peace in the Middle East if Russia sides with the Iran-Alawite-Hezbollah axis alone. Yet Putin, at the moment, has every reason to continue to focus attention on them but he has more to gain for Russia from becoming an overall peace negotiator with the US and to help the Middle East as a region build its own strategic consensus.”

Read the full text here: Tel Aviv speech

 

 

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The world faces a very grave situation over what to do to contain the North Korea dictator.

Lord Owen in the Daily Mirror 5 September 2017

View the article here: DropMOABifDiplomacyFails

The world faces a very grave situation over what to do to contain the Korean dictatorship of Kim Jong-un after the sixth and most powerful nuclear test in defiance of international law and progressively tougher UN resolutions passed unanimously with the support of China and Russia.

This comes after a series of Korean missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads were launched demonstrating to Japan and South Korea that they can be hit and promising the same would be done to the island of Guam in the Pacific.

Guam is an unincorporated US territory whose inhabitants are automatically US citizens and it has been a critical place for US defence ever since the war against Japan in 1941.

The closest comparable threat to the US was during the night of the 26 October 1962 when Soviet troops in Cuba, ignoring President Kennedy’s earlier public demand for the removal of all Soviet missiles, moved three FKR missiles with 14 kiloton nuclear warheads, to within 15 miles of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

For that one night the Russians, without reference back to Moscow, had orders to fire if the US invaded the island.

The UK will not be asked in advance to approve any US action against North Korea but the UK was part of a UN force that the Labour Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, agreed should fight in defence of South Korea in June 1950.

The Korean War was brought to an end in July 1953 after President Eisenhower had used the Indian Prime Minister Nehru to warn the Chinese leader Zhou Enlai in May

that the US would use atomic bombs north of the Yalu river in North Korea unless peace talks in Panmunjom between North and South Korea made rapid progress.

In 2006 the deteriorating situation in North Korea was part of an “uncertain world too big a risk for our defence” that convinced another Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to renew our UK nuclear deterrent. More recently some 170 Labour MPs supported that decision in Parliament, later confirmed in Labour’s manifesto in the recent 2017 General Election.

So Britain cannot wash its hands of the dilemma the US faces and disown any decision President Trump might make particularly if it emerges it had the support of the Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis.

President Trump has talked directly to the Chinese President Xi in person and by other means many times. If Chinese diplomacy cannot change the mind of the Korean leader what will short of force? Perhaps initially using the Massive Ordnance Air Blast bombs on all nuclear sites will suffice, leaving nuclear bombs as a last resort only if South Korea is attacked.

These MOAB bombs (also known as Mother of All Bombs) were used for the first time ever in April against an ISIS tunnel and cave complex in Afghanistan. It is an horrendous choice the US is facing.

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Eventual Eurozone reform and improving Russian/European relations

Speech by Lord Owen to the Progress Foundation’s 43rd Economic Conference on ‘Which Future for Europe?’, Zurich, Friday 28 October 2016.

Extracts only. Read the full speech here: zurichspeech2

The EU is wisely, four months on since the UK referendum vote to leave the EU, less inclined to dismiss Brexit as an event of little significance, a matter just for the British. The EU is more likely now, in the wake of Brexit, to start to face long overdue reform….

Defining a core Eurozone involving a Fiscal Union and a Banking Union will have to be openly discussed, as already has been done informally by Germany and the Netherlands. Initially at least with Belgium and Austria. Even if something dire happens to the Eurozone these four countries will ensure that a small Eurozone continues. The question is who will be their partners?

As for France, a lot will depend on the outcome of the French elections. But for the first time, whereas it would have been automatic in the past that Germany would insist on French membership, there may not be the level of public support after the elections in Germany to include France initially.

It is very unlikely that German public opinion will accept any system of automatic money transfers to Italy….

Other countries that would want to be part of a core Eurozone are Spain and Ireland. Finland in the past would have expected to be a member; perhaps not now. Luxembourg will want to participate but they, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta, may need to face tax haven questions first as it is very undesirable that any unacceptable practices should be inherited by a new Fiscal and Banking Union…..

The core Eurozone countries cannot throw a number of countries out of the Eurozone given the practical politics of the EU. What they can do is make them ineligible to be part of a core because of the way that core has fixed the initial criteria for a Fiscal and Banking Union. The weakest economies would become more vulnerable to speculative moves aimed at destabilising some of their economies, but if they can ride out speculation they might be able to stay in the Eurozone even though they were not protected as would be members of the core. Aware of their vulnerability and anticipating such speculation, some might prefer to leave rather than await being forced to decide to leave at a time of crisis. The best outcome would be if Italy voluntarily chose to leave the Eurozone for they would have the power to lead a serious restructuring of the EEA and ensure it was not unduly influenced by core Eurozone members. And others like Greece and Portugal might follow.

A core Eurozone will not be a North-South Eurozone in the sense of a formal geographical divide, though this may be the appearance. A divide will happen because of the design and disciplines of the core. Some countries that stay in the Eurozone and make the transition will be able to qualify to be part of the Fiscal Union and Banking Union over time. In effect this core will become a federal Europe.

… Besides Eurozone reform, there is the need to face up to President Obama’s criticism that Europe is “freeloading” within NATO and the disappointing record of the European External Action Service, EEAS.

… Only in a revived NATO, where European countries are no longer as President Obama rightly accused us of being ‘freeloaders’, and we make a greater financial contribution, will Europe redress the imbalance between us and President Putin’s Russian Federation.

Read the full speech here: zurichspeech2

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Turkey should be helped to intervene over Aleppo.

“The humanitarian imperative is for the region to act and the world to help.”

Read the full piece as carried by the WorldPost section of the Huffington Post here: syriahuffpost27-9-16

Extracts: In repeated interviews and articles on the deepening tragedy that is Syria, many carried by the Huffington Post, I have argued that a necessary element for peace in Syria is an initial partition or zones of influence from neighbouring states.

This has not been a fashionable view in diplomatic circles in most countries wedded to the concept of keeping Syria as a unified country. Turkey in particular was understandably very reluctant to move militarily across the border into Syria.

When Russia extended an airfield close to Latakia not far from the naval port they had had in Syria since 1971, and put sophisticated airplanes in to protect the Assad forces, everything changed…..

Only Turkey is in a political and military position to intervene on the ground in Syria and they have demonstrated this by a limited cross border initiative this summer against ISIL. But Turkish tanks were also pre-empting a planned Kurdish advance. Turkey can now because of changed circumstances create a crucial balancing factor in Syria by taking urgent humanitarian action with their troops and air power in relieving the siege of Aleppo…

Potentially in NATO there is the necessary support for such an intervention by Turkey. But since the failed military coup against President Erdogan in Turkey, a very damaging strain emerged in NATO’s relations with their fellow member, namely the role in this latest coup of the Iman Fethullah Gulen.

…..On Friday 23 September Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag announced in Istanbul that US Vice President Joe Biden had accepted that there is “concrete evidence” that Gulen was behind the failed coup. Assuming there is substantive evidence in relation to Gulen the political path is therefore open for early and decisive action over Syria between Washington and Ankara.

Turkish military action should and could be mounted within hours of a decision by President Erdogan to move a considerable number of Turkish tanks, artillery and ground to air missiles into Syria within range of Assad forces around Aleppo. They would have the power to implement a No Fly Zone crucially given what is already happening in the air from the ground with protected land corridors for humanitarian aid and the flow of people both ways into Aleppo. This should be accompanied by a demand for the withdrawal of Assad forces to a line between Hama and Aleppo..

NATO forces would guard Turkey as they conducted this humanitarian operation. Air activity outside the NFZ would continue against ISIL in Syria and Iraq by Russia, NATO and Assad forces. A Kurdish area of influence in Syria in relation to ISIL would continue de facto. Areas of influence would apply, if they are prepared to exercise them, by Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan over the borders of Syria predominantly against ISIL. This whole initiative should be discussed at the highest military level in the NATO-Russian Council before going to the Security Council.

When the time is ripe, UN supervised elections should take place in Syria and a single government be chosen for a unified but probably federal country. To try to anticipate when this can happen is at present impossible given the complexity of the conflict between anti-Assad Syrian fighters and the nature of ISIL. The humanitarian imperative is for the region to act and the world to help.

 

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Outside a dysfunctional EU with its common defence agenda, we must champion and strengthen Nato

Lord Owen writing for the website brexitcentral.com

….The EU policy paper Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe. A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy was presented to the Heads of Government Brussels summit meeting on 28th June 2016 quickly followed on 13th July by the publication of the German White Paper on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr. Both papers had been held back deliberately to avoid debate during the UK referendum. These documents are likely to be the defining moment in the creation of a continental United States of Europe and the deepest political reason for the UK voting to leave the EU.

….There are people in the UK who take a largely French view that Europe alone can deal with its own defence, that we do not need the US and need not worry about a decline in NATO. The facts simply do not bear this out in terms of the money EU countries spend, the numbers in the military and the quality and total armaments held. Indeed, it is questionable whether some of our European neighbours have the necessary will and resolve in foreign affairs to make the difficult decisions.

Read the full text here: brexitcentral

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“I mourn the loss of a great Frenchman and fine internationalist.”

Statement by the Rt Hon Lord Owen following the death of his friend, former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, on 3 July 2016.

“Michel was my friend of the heart and the brain for fifty years. We agreed on a social democracy for the 21st Century. We believed in Europe as an enriching entity in all its many manifestations. For him Europe would be a supranational political design; for me a grouping of states. On that difference there were many arguments. In Paris this Spring on a European Mouvement political platform we spoke together in unison. The time had come for the EU and the Eurozone to be a United States of Europe and for Britain to leave the EU but with our friendship with France enhanced by that process. I am glad that he lived to see that British decision. But I mourn the loss of a great Frenchman and fine internationalist.”

For further French citation available here: Michel Rocard : Un grand Français et un internationaliste subtil

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